- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - The Federal Trade Commission is calling for legislation that would give citizens access to the information that commercial data brokers store about them.

The proposal is an unusually tough one from an agency that prefers to coax companies into adopting voluntary principles. A month ago, Obama administration officials outlined a proposed "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" and urged technology companies, consumer groups and others to jointly craft new protections.

In a privacy report released this week, the FTC is urging the adoption of a law that would let consumers access and dispute personal data held by information brokers, similar to the way consumers today have free access to their credit reports.

The report comes as the business of background checks is booming. An investigation by The Associated Press last year found that data brokers often store incorrect or outdated information, including criminal records. That meant some people were denied jobs because data brokers incorrectly reported them as convicted felons.

The commission called on data brokers to create a centralized website where they identify themselves and disclose how they collect and use consumer data.

"Consumers are often unaware of the existence of these entities, as well as the purposes for which they collect and use data," Monday’s report said.

The FTC recommended basing legislation on a bill that was passed by the House in 2009, but died in the Senate.

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